On Friday January 11th a group of math teachers and administrators stayed after school, the first week back of school no less, to participate in a math workshop. The workshop was led and organized by the rethinkED team with a guest presentation from Jed Silverstein, upper school English teacher, a session led by the tech integration team and a sessions designed by the rethinkED team.

The workshops came out of interviews with a handful of the math faculty at Riverdale. Through in-depth interviews, the rethinkED team captured a few themes they then developed drawing on some design thinking techniques. The team shared a list of proposed topics with the math faculty and administrators asking for feedback and to rank the workshops. The top-ranked workshops were chosen based on the math teachers’ feedback.

With the dusk falling, teachers sustained themselves with cheese and wine as they listened to TED talks, participated in debates, and designed prototypes of ideas. Cross-grade and cross-subject collaboration was encouraged.

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The first session was called the Creating the You-Can-Do-It Problem.The workshop involved an introductory TED talk, a discovery phase, and ideation and prototype phases with time for reflection. Out of the conversations, teachers brought up the question of transferability of a real life problems into the classroom. At times a real life problem may be difficult to talk about in terms of the specific math terms being developed. On the plus side, real life problems were seen as being high on the the relatability scale–something that greatly increases student engagement. Another issue raised was the engagement and fun of real world problems as being antithetical to the pressure of the college tests and preparation for next year.

The second session involved two workshops, one on Guided Student Teaching, with an intro from Jed Silverstein on some of the work he has done in his humanities classes. Jed often has students teach portions of his humanities classes so that they can learn and ask questions about the material as a teacher might. Well aware of the difference of content between humanities and math, Jed sought to find similarities across disciplines. The other workshop occurring simultaneously was led by the Tech Integration Team, who offered a tour through iPad apps geared towards middle and upper school math courses. A highlight was the ipad version of wolfram alpha which allowed students and teachers to see various different ways of solving a single problem.

The workshop ended on a high note, with buzzing energy past 6 pm on a Friday and plans to implement ideas and keep the conversation going. The rethinkED team will follow-up individually with math teachers, both through interviews and observations. There is talk of organizing a similar workshop in the spring. Stay tuned!